Testimony: Joe Keim and His Dad Share Forgiveness
September 16, 2011
Ever since my early teens, my dad and I have had a stressed relationship. Dad was a man of dreams and many talents, which led him to getting involved in everything under the sun. He was known as the community blacksmith, machinist, veterinary, dentist and doctor. He also owned a 200 acre farm, wrote several books and developed a burn salve that is now in most Amish households in the US and Canada. His salve has even gotten the attention of medical doctors in various hospitals across America.
In my struggle to find acceptance from my father, I found the Lord and received him as my Savior -- a love and acceptance I had seldom experienced during my growing up years.
In 1987, Esther and I clung to our Savior and left our families and Amish community behind, knowing we would never return.
During the next 25 years, dad mailed us letter after letter, reminding us that we would end up in divorce, turn our backs on God and end up in hell. We were told not to ever come home for family reunions, weddings and funerals. Five years ago, however, two of my Amish sisters invited us and three of my brothers who also left the Amish to attend a family reunion. There are only two stipulations, they said: "you have to dress in Amish clothes and park your cars a mile away from the reunion."
As the years went by, my heart ached for one more visit with my parents before they passed away. Several months ago, I asked my brother William if he would go with me, if I drove to PA where they had moved to a few years ago.
On August 5, 2011, we found ourselves heading east toward Ulysses PA. While many people prayed, we prepared ourselves for rejection.
By the time we found dad and mom's place way out in the middle of nowhere it was already dark. Both dad and mom were out doing chores and, when we walked up to them, they wanted to know what brought us there.
It would take up a small book to tell you all that happened during the next 18 hours, but in short, here is the email I send back home to our wives, children and prayer partners:
To all: Where do I start? We just left dad and mom's house. I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome and powerful our visit was. We got there at 9pm and talked until 3:30am.
Per their invitation, we got to sleep in their house. This morning we got up and ate a big mom style breakfast; of course at a separate table. And then we continued talking until 3:30 this afternoon.
We tried to leave at least 6 times and always got called back. The last time we tried leaving, we were already in the car and dad came out and asked us to come back to the house.
While there, we hugged each other, wept on each other's shoulder until our shoulders were completely wet. We apologized and forgave each other for all the pain we caused each other. At one point, dad and I wept on each other's shoulder so loudly that people on the outside of the house could hear us. We held on to each other and made up for 25 years of separation. Even now as I write, the tears are running down my cheeks.
Thank you all for praying, and please go see your parents every chance you have. Love them! Hug them! They love us.
During our time with them, I asked if they would allow us to pray for them. They said, "that's fine", however, mom said, "maybe we should let dad do the praying."
We all knelt and dad prayed without a prayer book. He prayed and wept; all of us wept too. It was one of the most powerful prayers we had ever heard dad pray.
Brother William quoted John 3:3 and asked if they are born again. To which dad and mom replied, "we can say, we have a very strong hope that we are." As much as we wanted to hear greater assurance, we did not hear it.
At the very end, dad said, "thank you for living godly lives all these years; I give my blessings to you and your families. Please tell your wives and children that we love them."
As we walked away for the last time and got in our car to leave, William said, "after hearing dad pray and describe the new birth, our trust in their salvation rose from 20% to 90%." We could tell, they struggled with the idea that we were so confident of our salvation.
What more could we have asked for?
Thank you Lord for all the work you did in both our hearts during the past 25 years. We messed up thousands of times but, today, we, the Keim family, rejoice together in the Lord Jesus Christ our blessed Redeemer and Savior. All praise and glory to our King! The painful past has been forgiven; we look forward to what lies ahead.
We are so glad that we were able make things right with one another before one of us laid in a coffin and it was forever too late.
There is so much more to write, but this in a small nutshell explains how our 18 hours went with our precious and beloved parents.
-Joe and William Keim
The day after we got back from visiting our parents, I started writing a letter to dad and mom, explaining all the things that God has done in our lives. Literally, tens of thousands of lives have been touched through the MAP ministry. No, it's not being done dad's way. And no, it's not being done Joe's way. It's being done God's way. He alone gets the credit for all eternity.
After my letter to dad and mom reached 15,000 words, I got this crazy feeling inside: this is not a letter; it's a book. And some day, if the Lord tarries, you might get to read about the many things God has done and continues to do through clay vessels such as us.
Note: If you Google "John Keim B&W Ointment", you will find that dad's ointment information is all over the internet. When we were at his house, he informed us of two other natural remedies he is working on. One removes radiation from the human body; the other helps people overcome depression.
For the first time in my life, I just want to be next to dad and mom's side. I feel like so much of our lives were wasted in unnecessary pain, anger, pride and unforgiveness in our hearts toward each other. While we suffered and held on to our end of the rope, Satan had hay day after hay day, and it lasted way too many years. Why did we let it happen?
The joy of forgiveness and restoration feels so great.
The past almost seems like a vapor that was but then disappeared into thin air and is now forgotten. I don't ever want to go back there and carry that ton of steel on my back again. Never, Lord, never!
I forgot to mention that while we were at Dad and mom's place, they got song books out that were written in English --- something that we would never have done during our growing up years ---- we always had to sing in German, which we had a hard time understanding. This time, we sat around in a circle and sang about 8-10 songs. We sang >> "How beautiful heaven must be" >> "how great thou art" >> "Because He lives" (we had to teach them some of these songs since they had never heard them before).
Dad told us a story that happened in 1985 when I ran away from home. He said, I hired a taxi driver to come and see you, hoping I could get you to come home. When we got to the city where you were staying, the owner of the house came out and told me to leave because Joe does not want to talk. So I waited on the doorstep until 4am in the morning, and again, the owner came out and was very angry with me and ordered me to leave or he would take further action.
At that point, dad said, "I gathered myself together, got in the car and headed home. As we headed home, the driver loaded a tape in the player and played "Hold fast to the right" six times through. This gave me the strength I needed so desperately to get through the pain of losing my oldest son. When he got all done telling the story, he told us that he would like to sing that song in the songbook. We paged there and began to sing. As you can imagine, the tears were unstoppable for all of us. Here are the words. Please imagine the moment and let the song and words touch your heart."
Kneel down by the side of your mother, my boy
You have only a moment I know
But stay till I give you this parting advice
It is all that I have to be stow
Hold fast to the right, hold fast to the right
Wherever your footsteps may roam
Oh forsake not the way of a salvation my boy
That you learn'd from your mother at home
You leave us to seek your employment, my boy
By the world you have yet to be tried
But in the temptations and trials you meet
May your heart to the Savior confide
I gave you to God in your cradle, my boy
And I've taught you the best that I knew
And as long as His mercies permit me to live
And I shall never cease praying for you
You will find in your satchel, a Bible, my boy
It's the book of all others the best
It will help you to levee and prepare you to die
And will lead to the gates of the blest
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